Expert Q&A: Marketing to Families Online
All the details from our exclusive Q&A with social media expert Clementine Hancox (LEGO, Channel Mum, We Are Social).
A special Q&A with Clementine Hancox, social media and digital marketing expert whose campaigns have reached millions of families globally for leading family brands including LEGO and Heinz. Clementine, a mother of two, also co-founded Channel Mum, the UK’s first platform for mums, creating a forum for honest stories to support mums to be published.
She is rare expert that knows how to make your business stand out from the crowd online, and has the hands-on experience and expertise required to connect with a local family audience. The Q&A focussed on the practical things you can do online to reach new customers and how to engage your existing customer base effectively, from local communities to the basics of ads.
The discussion was moderated by Hoop co-founder, Max Jennings as part of Hoop’s March 2019 networking event.
Read on below for the full discussion, or get all the best bits from our 7 Key Insights: Clementine Hancox on Marketing to Families Online.
The Full Discussion: Read the Transcript
Max Jennings: We're going to focus on two broad concepts today. How do we get customers coming to our classes for the first time through online platforms and then how do we keep them engaged and coming back?
So maybe we should start with social media, because that can be a really cost effective way to build an audience. Where should companies start, as I guess you could create a Facebook account, Instagram feed, then there's Snapchat, there's Youtube, there's Pinterest... there are so many different options. Where do you think people should begin?
Clem Hancox: Yeah I agree. It can be a bit intimidating when you're thinking about where to start, but I think really what you need to do is have a bit of a plan. The first thing you need is to think about what your overarching goal is, what are you trying to achieve?
So I guess for many of you that's just going to be getting people through the door, getting bookings, but it could be things like keeping in touch with people that come along to your activities or plan something new or try to tell them about the specific benefits of what you do that's different from your competitors.
I think starting that overarching goal for your social media, and once you've got that, start thinking about where your target audience spend their time. I would say the social channels that are probably most likely to be successful are ones like Facebook and Instagram rather than Snapchat or some of the others.
Outside of those main social platforms that you'll have your own presence on, I recommend asking parents who come to your classes what kind of local blogs or Instagram channels they follow. Do your research, really looking at your own target audience and where they're spending their time. Then when you've done that, the next thing I would do is to identify a role that you want each of those channels to have within your marketing program.
Facebook is a great place for you to stay in touch with people that come along to your activities. In doing so, you’ve got the opportunity to create a really rich environment of testimonials and that kind of thing.If you've got people who come along to an activity then write on your Facebook page saying what a lovely time they have, or sharing pictures or whatever it might be, then when someone else is researching what they're going to do and they come across that page, that instantly creates a really good impression for what your offer.
Instagram is similar. When I'm thinking about what I might want to do with my kids, I'll often go to an Instagram profile and just check out pictures and see the kind of activities that I can expect from that group. In short, have a clear role in mind for the way that each of those channels is going to work and then it's onto the what really. What are you going to say on those channels?
Go back to that initial goal and then come up with three to five key messages that you want to talk about on an ongoing basis on those channels. If it's getting people along to your classes, one of the messages could be what's unique about your class compared to your competitors. Another one could be the benefits for babies and children that are coming along. So if you think about what those messages might be, then that can become your content plan. Probably sounds easier that it is, but I think once you've got a bit of a plan then it gives you the confidence to get started.
Max Jennings: Are there any practical tips when you start thinking about creating content? Is certain content more likely to engage families than other types?
Clementine Hancox: I mean visuals are everything on social media these days, as you all probably know. So that's really important. Again that can be easier said than done. You've probably got some stock imagery or a few pictures that you take, but I can imagine that you feel like you have to reuse that same content a lot.
So in that way, it's a case of looking for different sources of content. It can be pictures that you take when you're in the activity, but also pictures that you take in your life that you can use on your social channels as well, or pictures that other people share with you (with permission) and from elsewhere on the web. I don't think there's a magic formula for specifically what's going to work. What's really important with all of this is just trying it and finding out what works for you and then doing more of that and less of what doesn't.
Just because you've got a plan, doesn't mean that you have to stick to it if it's not working. Definitely don't be afraid to change it any time. If you see something that's coming out, then try to do more of it. You can do really good tests on social actually, so you can try posting something very similar at different times of day or at different times of the week and see which one does best. Then you know that you should keep doing it at that time each week.
Likewise, there are some principles with your copy. I'd say try to keep it quite punchy and friendly, but really it's probably going to be quite unique to you in terms of what actually does resonate.
Max Jennings: Building on this, what sort of reaction or data should be looking for once they start posting?
Clementine Hancox: The classic things are comments and shares now, rather than having lots of followers or likes. I wouldn't chase followers and likes because these days people don't necessarily follow something. People use Instagram as a research tool, so I don't think worrying about followers is the best way. If something gets comments and shares, then that's definitely a good indicator.
Max Jennings: There’s a reality that you only have so much time to produce all this content, so there's two ways you can look at it. You can try and throw a load of social posts out on a regular basis or you can probably invest a little bit more time and invest it in quality. Is there a best strategy?
Clementine Hancox: I think less within reason. It’s more about quality. Especially when your time and your resources are limited. So just focus on making what you do post as good and as useful to people as possible.
If you are trying to communicate around a specific goal or message, then I think that should tighten up what you do a bit more, and you can focus a bit more on making sure that your content really does that rather than feeling like, ‘oh I'm constantly posting I got nothing to post today’.
Don't worry about feeling it's Tuesday so you need to put something up because you haven't done it for a week. Try and think about what you can actually do that's going to meet your objective and communicate something valuable to the audience.
Max Jennings: So once your social presence live, what can you do to start to grow reach and a wider audience through via Facebook or Instagram or whatever channel you're on?
Clementine Hancox: I think that's a really important point. Looking outside of your own channels and finding people is really important. So one of the things I mentioned which we're going to talk about a bit more is those local influencers, whether they're bloggers or Instagrammers. They really don't need to have a big audience, but basically local parents who have a little audience on social media. You should definitely be talking to them about what you do and trying to get them to share it with their audience.
The other thing that can be really effective is social advertising. Max, maybe you’d like to talk about this a little more, as you’ve had lots of success here.
Max Jennings: Yeah I think what we've seen with the stuff we've tested at Hoop is you don't need to spend a lot of money to identify what works and what doesn't work. I think a lot of times people think about online advertising, they think you've got to have huge budgets and spend thousands of pounds. You can test a post for £5 or £10 and you'll get real results you can start to build successful campaigns on.
One of the great things around the social networks is you can reach the exact audience you want to target. You run adverts that will reach people within a certain radius of where your activities take place.
Building on what Clem was talking about before, taking the posts that you're doing to connect with your existing audience, but investing £10 in these posts to give them a little bit further exposure to families in the local area will accelerate your learnings as it will immediately give them extra reach with local families. So you could test over a number of weeks or months a range of different posts to find out which ones are likely to perform better quickly.
Getting started on Facebook or Instagram with an advertising account needn’t be complicated. It's pretty plug and play. You write your ad copy, you select the image and the text you want, you select the location where the ad wants to appear, and you put in the amount. There's obviously loads of really sophisticated stuff you can explore, but to get things started, you can get something up in under 30 minutes.
Again, touching on what Clem talked about before, testing is really, really important. You're never going to get it right the first time. Think about the language you use to describe your class and what makes it unique and special - you might not use the right terms or phrase the first time you try, so keep changing it. Maybe there's three things you want to communicate. Try doing a post which communicates each of those ones individually and see which one gets the most engagement.
Max Jennings: So you talked about Facebook parenting groups earlier. There's thousands of these all over the country and they're so helpful for parents to find information. Have you got any tips as far as interacting with these groups?
Clementine Hancox: Yeah I mean they all have their own rules, don't they? It's obviously about finding out what those rules are and some have very strict rules on posting about businesses and some are quite open to it. So yeah if you're able to, I would definitely go ahead and post in them. Again with a strong visual or online flyer and some nice copy, maybe something a bit witty I think always works quite well. Something that really sells the benefit of what you do to the parents.
They are a brilliant resource. I’m on maternity leave at the moment, so I'm spending a lot of time in those groups. I've definitely seen stuff pop up has piqued my interest. I also think within reason, you need to post more than once probably to make sure that you catch people in there at different times obviously, without spamming or annoying the moderators. If you can get someone commenting underneath what you're posting. ‘We love this, we went there last week’ ... or whatever it might be. That's just so powerful.
Max Jennings: Beyond Facebook groups there's lots of other digital communities that parents turn to for information and support, like influencers. If you are looking to explore those communities, how do you begin to get in touch with them, and work with them?
Clementine Hancox: There’s lots of great local resources out there for parents online, once you’ve found the places you want to contact. When it comes to contacting them, I think have a look through what they're sharing and make sure that what you've got to offer is relevant and sits well amongst the kind of stuff that they're talking about and if you feel that it is, I think just get in touch with a friendly approach.
Telling them in one sentence a bit about what you do and asking if it's something that they would ever consider talking about and if so, what they would need and whether they’d like to come to your class. If you're holding any special events, then this is a really good way of connecting.
There are also obviously some really big Instagram accounts you probably all follow and a lot of them charge crazy amounts of money, but if you've got one living in your area with a child, it’s definitely worth a shot inviting them along to an event; like everybody else, they will be looking for stuff to do, so why not invite them?
Max Jennings: Presumably, you want them to become your customers and then they love your classes, and would like to share what you do.
Max Jennings: What would you say the most common mistakes people make when they approach online marketing?
Clementine Hancox: I'd say not having a plan. Apart from anything else I think it’s just stressful because you're just constantly feeling on the back foot and like you can't keep up.
Having a plan doesn't need to be anything really fancy or detailed, just something that sketches out what you're going to do. Trying to spread yourself too thinly is another mistake, so definitely try and keep it quite focused. Once you've got that goal in mind and you know what the role for each of your channels is, then stick with that certainly to begin with before you start branding out elsewhere. I think make it as easy as possible for yourself to have success in the channel, and to not add to your stress as well.
Max Jennings: We talked in the beginning about having a clear idea of what you want to communicate and how you're going to communicate it, would this be part of shaping a plan?
Clementine Hancox: I think if you're like a massive brand and you're investing a million pounds, than you'd want to know what's your ROI (return on investment) is going to be over a certain length of time. But I think for smaller organisations, probably a lot of this you canbe more touch and feel. You know when something's working and when it's not over a given amount of time. So I think if you've got your plan and it’s not working, you can simply review your plan and change direction rather than keep doing something that’s not working for the sake of a plan.
Max Jennings: From a practical perspective, the next time someone here opens up their social accounts, what things can a family activity organiser do that would make a difference?
Clementine Hancox: I think check back through your recent posts and ask yourself do they really say something that is going to land that overall message whatever it might be. If they don't, that's fine. Don't beat yourself up. Look ahead and think about how you can really strengthen what you've got coming up to make sure that it does that.